Richard J. Secor AKA Aspenman

Artyczar

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It's time for July's Spotlight, and we are honored to present Richard J. Secor, who you all know as Aspenman. He can be frequently found in the Acrylics and Oils forums, as he is incredibly prolific and posts his works daily. His output is frankly astounding, and a lot can be learned from his work, the freedom of his gestures, and his visions of the landscape.

So, getting right to it, here is our interview with this outstanding artist. We hope you like getting to know him as much as we have. We would like to thank Richard for participating in this process, as we really appreciate it! :)

1. Where are you from and where have you lived?

I am originally from Saugus, Massachusetts. I joined the Air Force right after high school in 1958 and served for four years, during which I was stationed in several places: Biloxi, Mississippi, Anchorage, Alaska, and San Antonio, Texas. I returned to New England and lived in Londonderry, NH, then later in York, Maine and East Boothbay, Maine. In 2001, my wife and I moved to Arizona to get away from the cold New England winters. We were there until 2007, when we moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we lived for five years. In 2011, we decided to try life on the road in an RV, so we sold the house and traveled throughout 2012. We ended up in Punta Gorda, Florida at the end of that year, and have lived here now for 10 years.

2. How did you get started making your art?

I always had an interest in art, but no idea if I had any talent. After the Air Force, I went to work for banks, specializing in data processing – which tells you how long ago this was because they don’t call it that anymore. For the next 30 years, I was busy working and raising a family and didn’t really have time to think about or pursue art. I worked for a family-owned bank, but sadly it wasn’t my family that owned it! Time flies and I had some fun, but suddenly I was 50 and not really having much fun! I had a heart attack at age 49 and promised myself that I would retire by age 55, and that the first thing I would do was paint a picture!

My wife, Melissa, bought me a beautiful set of Windsor & Newton watercolor paints, which promptly went under the bed and didn’t come out until I did, indeed, retire – even earlier than I planned. I left at age 54, when the bank merged with a larger bank and offered a severance/early retirement package. After 32 years I ran to the front of the line so I could be first in case they changed their minds!

Once retired, I pulled out those watercolor paints and painted a picture of a chickee hut on a Caribbean beach, and it was absolutely awful! So I said to myself, “Self, you have a lot of learning to do!” I bought books, lots of paper, and brushes, and just kept learning and trying. I took one or two lessons, but I do better learning on my own from books and videos, so I kept with that.

At our house in East Boothbay, I opened a small gallery and did very well with it. My subjects were mainly ocean scenes, landscapes, and light houses, which were popular with the tourists. I continued painting in watercolor throughout our time in Maine and Arizona, but when we moved to Santa Fe, I stopped painting for a while. But the urge was strong, and the boost I needed was switching to acrylic paints. I fell in love with the vibrant color, depth, and texture I could get with them, and was back on the horse. I recently tried water-mixable oils, and like them even better.

Storm Moving Away from the Pedernal.jpg

Storm Moving Away from the Pedernal (New Mexico). Acrylic on linen canvas panel, 11 x 14 inches.

3. Who are your artistic influences?

Early on, my influences were watercolorists Tony Van Hasselt, Judy Wagner, and Carlton Plummer, all of whom are well-known and also happened to live in East Boothbay, Maine! Since converting to acrylics and WMOs (water-mixable oils), my influences are Jane Hunt, Jason Tako, and Eva Volf. I learn from them by watching their YouTube videos and trying out their techniques and tips.

Sunset on the Dunes.jpg

Sunset on the Dunes. Acrylic on heavy watercolor paper, 18 x 24 inches.

4. What mediums do you work in?

I work in heavy-body acrylics and water-mixable oils. Right now, the split is around 70% acrylics/30%WMOs, but I feel myself moving toward primarily working with the oils.

Clouds over the Marshland.jpg

Clouds Over the Marshland. Water-mixable oil on heavy watercolor paper, 18 x 24 inches.

5. What kind of tools do you use and why?

I use brushes and palette knives. My “go to” brush is a two-inch natural bristle brush that I get for less than $2 at Home Depot. The rest of my brushes are synthetic Princeton Dakota long handled, #10 and #12 Bright, and #8 and #12 Filbert. I use the 2-inch brush to get the painting started and then the others for detail work, though my work is generally loose. I use the palette knife when I want sweeps of thick, juicy paint and lots of texture. For paints, I use SoHo heavy-body Urban Artist acrylics and my water-mixable oils are Lukas Berlin.

6. How much time do you spend making art?

I paint every day. I am a morning painter, and paint from about 9am to noontime or one o’clock. I draw with my paintbrush, so this is all painting time, and I work fast, typically doing a painting a day – sometimes two - depending on how big they are.

High Country Pastureland 18 by 24 WMO.jpg

High Country Pastureland. Water-mixable oil on heavy watercolor paper, 18 x 24 inches.

7. Do you have a philosophy regarding the art-making process?

My philosophy is that the more you do it, the better you will get. With that as my goal, I paint a lot! I also believe that the emotional aspect of a painting is at least as important, if not more so, than the technical, and like this quote from Guido Frick:

“If you forget your emotions, then you end up with a copy of nature. But combine your visual impression with your emotional input and you might have a chance to create a piece of art.”

And I’ll throw in this quote from Judy Wagner, who changed my life as an artist when she said this to me:

“Use paint like you’re a millionaire!”

Distant Shores, Cornwall, UK oil 18 by 24.jpg

Distant Shores, Cornwall, UK.
Oil, 18 x 24 inches.

8. Tell us about where you create.

I use an extra guest bedroom at the back of our home as my studio. It has a beautiful view overlooking a pond. I used to paint standing up, but I have Parkinson’s and find now that for my safety and stamina, I have to sit. One of the effects of Parkinson’s is a sensation of falling over backwards, so all of a sudden, whoops – there I go! Trust me, this can really mess up a painting! So my station is set up with garage shelving to create a tabletop, on which sits my easel arrangement. I have a U-shaped set-up, with a table for the paints I’m using to my left, and another shelving unit with a lower tabletop for my brushes, palette knives, water and other tools on my right. Everything is within easy reach. The shelving units also provide storage for my paintings.

I have some of my work on the walls, along with things that have personal meaning, and another small chair. It’s a very comfortable and bright space, and sometimes I go in there just to meditate.

Studio 1.jpg


9. Outside of art, what do you do for fun?

Because of my age (82) and health issues, I haven’t done anything all that much fun for a few years as a result of the pandemic. And during our last trip to New Mexico in 2019, I found that traveling was exhausting and disruptive to my nervous system. So I didn’t feel as bad about not being able to go anywhere when we all ended up in the same boat. Before that, we did like to travel and I treasure fond memories of the places we’ve been. We love Sedona, Monument Valley, Moab, Bryce, Zion, and the north rim of the Grand Canyon, which I’m proud to say we visited twice! When we were younger and still working, our favorite vacation destinations were Caribbean islands, particularly Aruba, where we had a timeshare that we used faithfully for 20 years. We also particularly love Old Quebec City, which we call “Our Paris,” and which we visited many times. Now we like to get to the beach when we can – the Florida beaches are very beautiful. Most days, we sit and enjoy the wildlife that lives around and visits our pond.

10. What has been your most satisfying artistic accomplishment?

The most satisfying thing was when a non-profit organization in New Mexico asked if they could use the image of my painting of the Zia, which is the symbol on the New Mexico flag, on their promotional materials. That meant a lot to me.

Do you have a website or any social media site we can use to help promote you and your art?

I have a blog called Painter of Southwest Visions that I started primarily for my southwest art, but which is now where I post paintings of all my work. I do one blog post monthly, in which I share work from the previous month and a little bit about my process or what I was exploring.
Here is the link: http://painterofthesouthwest.blogspot.com/.
 

Donna T

Well-known member
Messages
1,467
Wonderful interview! It's so nice to learn more about you, Richard, and to see how your travels have influenced your art. Your determination to keep painting in spite of health issues is inspiring and I look forward to seeing many more of your gorgeous paintings here!
 

Jo Castillo

Contributing Member
Messages
1,483
I'm happy to learn more about you in this interview. We've been online friends for quite some time now and I love your New Mexico paintings the most ... of course. You paint more than I can even imagine. Happy you are enjoying it and keep the paint flying.
 

laika

Loitering Member
Messages
1,021
Hey, I see kokopelli on the wall of your studio! My driver is taking me to the GC this fall, and Arches and Moab are also on the ticket. Will spend a night at the Apache, if it's still there.

Your interview certainly accounts for the Southwest influence. In my limited experience, it's breathtakingly beautiful. It's great that you were steeped in that part of the US, and your love for it really comes through in your paintings.

Your Florida paintings have seemed to me to have a very Gulf of Mexico feel to them, and I see that Punta Gorda is on the west side (Gulf side). It's really very far south, too! Probably far enough south that what we think of as exotic houseplants grow outside? I was staggered by the huge ficus trees in Miami and the jungle birds that flew from them. Do you have macaws and iguanas where you live? I hope none of the pythons that are taking over the Everglades! Anyway, yes, your dunes, beach, and marsh paintings and the awesome skies in them just shout "Gulf of Mexico" to me. You are a very keen observer of the environment of the places you paint and you capture the skies so beautifully. I look forward to seeing your paintings every time I look in on CS.
The most satisfying thing was when a non-profit organization in New Mexico asked if they could use the image of my painting of the Zia, which is the symbol on the New Mexico flag, on their promotional materials. That meant a lot to me.
That has to feel good! A great accomplishment, no doubt.

I thoroughly enjoyed this interview. Such a pleasure to read what you shared and learn more about the Aspenman. Stay at it, my friend; it'll keep you young!
 

snoball

Certifiable
Supporting Member
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6,441
Nice to get to know you better Richard. Painting with Parkinson's must be very difficult, you seem to control it well. I love learning more about all the members and applaud you for your perseverance. Looking forward to seeing more of your work.
 

Terri

Moderator
Messages
1,926
Terrific interview! Thank you for sharing your background and experiences with us, Richard! I remain in awe of your artistic output, and how your landscapes just sing. I'm so glad you're able to carry on with your art, as we're all richer for it! ❤️
 

Aspenman

Well-known member
Messages
1,329
Wonderful interview! It's so nice to learn more about you, Richard, and to see how your travels have influenced your art. Your determination to keep painting in spite of health issues is inspiring and I look forward to seeing many more of your gorgeous paintings here!
Thanks 😊 Donna-- greatly appreciated.
 

Aspenman

Well-known member
Messages
1,329
I'm happy to learn more about you in this interview. We've been online friends for quite some time now and I love your New Mexico paintings the most ... of course. You paint more than I can even imagine. Happy you are enjoying it and keep the paint flying.
Thanks Jo 😊 "keep the paint flying" This is my new motto! Thanks- your words are so kind and generous!
You have been a great friend for a long time ⌛
 

Aspenman

Well-known member
Messages
1,329
Hey, I see kokopelli on the wall of your studio! My driver is taking me to the GC this fall, and Arches and Moab are also on the ticket. Will spend a night at the Apache, if it's still there.

Your interview certainly accounts for the Southwest influence. In my limited experience, it's breathtakingly beautiful. It's great that you were steeped in that part of the US, and your love for it really comes through in your paintings.

Your Florida paintings have seemed to me to have a very Gulf of Mexico feel to them, and I see that Punta Gorda is on the west side (Gulf side). It's really very far south, too! Probably far enough south that what we think of as exotic houseplants grow outside? I was staggered by the huge ficus trees in Miami and the jungle birds that flew from them. Do you have macaws and iguanas where you live? I hope none of the pythons that are taking over the Everglades! Anyway, yes, your dunes, beach, and marsh paintings and the awesome skies in them just shout "Gulf of Mexico" to me. You are a very keen observer of the environment of the places you paint and you capture the skies so beautifully. I look forward to seeing your paintings every time I look in on CS.

That has to feel good! A great accomplishment, no doubt.

I thoroughly enjoyed this interview. Such a pleasure to read what you shared and learn more about the Aspenman. Stay at it, my friend; it'll keep you young!
Thanks laika for your comments. Yes, Punta Gorda is in SW Florida and on the Gulf. We have iguanas and wild parrots 🦜 and some exotic landscape and NO big snakes. We are about 3 miles from the Gulf, but, during a hurricane that is too close as the wind carries a lot of sea spray!
Punta Gorda is a small little town and very homey, but summertime is not fun, 98F with 98% humidity!
I'll take AZ at 110F with 10% humidity any day!!
Again thanks for your comments.
 
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Aspenman

Well-known member
Messages
1,329
Nice to get to know you better Richard. Painting with Parkinson's must be very difficult, you seem to control it well. I love learning more about all the members and applaud you for your perseverance. Looking forward to seeing more of your work.
The only Parkinson's "shaking" I have is of my right hand - my painting hand! I am blessed in that when I paint, the shaking stops! When not painting, I tuck my thumb under my fingers and this amazingly stops the shaking! My biggest problems are falling, walking and "brain fog". As long as I can continue to paint, I am happy!! I feel the "brain fog" has helped my painting, as they seem to come out better without a lot of thinking.

Thanks for your comments.
 

Aspenman

Well-known member
Messages
1,329
Great interview Richard! Big fan of yours - you paint from your soul!
Thanks 😊 CaliAnn- as I get older and my Parkinsons takes hold more, my painting has changed from really loose, to less loose - still not a lot of detail but more refined. Sometimes my brain and painting hand get their signals messed up. 🙃 however I am sooo glad 😊 I can still paint!!
 

Aspenman

Well-known member
Messages
1,329
Terrific interview! Thank you for sharing your background and experiences with us, Richard! I remain in awe of your artistic output, and how your landscapes just sing. I'm so glad you're able to carry on with your art, as we're all richer for it! ❤️
Thanks sooo much Terri for your comments, I am sooo appreciative for them! You were one of the first to welcome me and take an active interest in my work.
Thank you as because of people like you, this is a wonderful site to belong to.
 

Joy

Contributing Member
Messages
443
Richard, what a captivating interview! I actually read it twice. Since I have never tried acrylics, your skill is fascinating. What I find most compelling is your attention to light and evoking a mood. Storm Moving Away from the Pedernal (New Mexico) is my fave. The fact that you did that recently shows your are ever evolving. The palette, composition, mood, and lighting is absolutely thrilling. The fact that you paint daily really shows in your work. Your life experiences, travels, and struggles all contribute to the whole of your talent.

I encourage the other members to check out your blog. The still lifes are astonishing, particularly the balance and compostion of Livin' On the Edge and Almost Over the Edge.

Ayin, thank you for this outstanding interview.
 
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Aspenman

Well-known member
Messages
1,329
Richard, what a captivating interview! I actually read it twice. Since I have never tried acrylics, your skill is fascinating. What I find most compelling is your attention to light and evoking a mood. Storm Moving Away from the Pedernal (New Mexico) is my fave. The fact that you did that recently shows your are ever evolving. The palette, composition, mood, and lighting is absolutely thrilling. The fact that you paint daily really shows in your work. Your life experiences, travels, and struggles all contribute to the whole of your talent.

I encourage the other members to check out your blog. The still lifes are astonishing, particularly the balance and compostion of Livin' On the Edge and Almost Over the Edge.

Ayin, thank you for this outstanding interview.
WOW!! Thanks so much for your kind words - I read your review twice 😊 😀
 

joe1It

Well-known member
Messages
2,626
Nice interview, Richard, it's nice to know more about you and your art, beautiful paintings
 

Arnie

Well-known member
Messages
137
Lovely interview Richard. Nice to hear about person behind the paintings I'v seen and enjoyed for the last 10 years or more. Beautiful paintings selected above.
 
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